Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta Justice Kevin Feth made a substantial contribution to the pursuit of justice in Canada as a Bencher and then President of the Law Society of Alberta, and as the President of Pro Bono Law Alberta.
Justice Feth — who was appointed to QB on May 22, 2019 — was a leader on access to justice issues. He advocated for judicial independence, promoted more client-focused and proactive lawyer regulation and worked diligently to reform Alberta’s legal aid program.
“Canadian law societies are re-thinking the way legal services are delivered,” says Justice Feth, who convened and chaired the first ever round table of Western Canadian Law Societies to develop a strategy to authorize and regulate alternative business structures.
“Alternative business structures offer the hope of cheaper, more consumer focused and innovative services, which should improve access to meaningful legal representation on a wide range of legal issues,” says Justice Feth.
The Kelowna-born, Edmonton-based judge, who was a Law Society of Alberta (LSA) Bencher and Board member between 2009 and 2015 and President for the 2014 - 2015 term, believes in the Law Society’s role to publicly defend the rule of law and judicial independence.
In 2014, he issued a public statement and a notice to the profession in his role as LSA President criticizing attacks made by the Prime Minister’s Office on the Chief Justice of Canada.
Justice Feth was part of the leadership team committed to modernizing the LSA’s approach to lawyer regulation, with an enhanced focus on protecting the public through proactive regulation of lawyers and the avoidance of harm to clients.
As President, he oversaw the redesign of the LSA’s conduct process, including early intervention techniques, expanding pre-hearing case management, introducing non-Bencher adjudicators and creating an independent Tribunal Office to improve hearings and written decisions.
“The objective was to be more responsive and transparent in addressing the public’s concerns about lawyer conduct and the delivery of legal services,” says Justice Feth.
As a result of his work in legal regulation, he was made an honorary member of both the Law Society of Manitoba and the Law Society of Saskatchewan
As LSA President, Justice Feth also initiated the creation of and chaired a legal aid task force to take on the chronic underfunding of Alberta’s legal aid program. He led the LSA’s efforts to obtain increased funding for the program and, following the completion of his term as President, was asked to continue in this role.
“Between April 2014, when the task force was created, and April 2018, provincial government funding was increased from $58.8 million per year to $89.3 million,” he says.
Justice Feth, a married father of two, was the child of German immigrants and grew up on a farm, where he learned the value of hard work at a young age.
He attended the University of Alberta, receiving a Bachelor of Commerce with Distinction in 1986 and then earning an LLB in 1989. While in law school, he received several awards and scholarships for high academic achievement and served as an editor on the Alberta Law Review.
Justice Feth was called to the Alberta Bar in 1990 after completing his articles at Field & Field. He remained with that firm, which became Field LLP and Field Law, for 29 years up until his appointment.
A litigator and labour lawyer, his legal experience was divided between employment and labour law, human rights, administrative law, education law, commercial and constitutional litigation, aboriginal law and appellate advocacy. He also practiced in criminal defence during his first decade at the firm and, in his last decade, he principally advised universities, public institutions, government, Indigenous peoples, First Nations and Metis Settlements.
Outside the firm, Justice Feth was actively engaged in the legal community, frequently making presentations and teaching courses for legal associations and educational organizations. He was a sessional instructor at the University of Alberta Law School and taught litigation skills at Alberta Bar Admission and Canadian Centre for Professional Legal Education courses.
He also wrote articles and case commentaries in the areas of employment and education law, the practice of law including pro bono work and is one of the co-authors of Remedies in Labour, Employment and Human Rights Law.
As well, he served on multiple committees, councils and sections with organizations such as the Canadian Bar Association and Federation of Law Societies of Canada. He was also heavily involved in pro bono activities.
As the President of Pro Bono Law Alberta, he oversaw the expansion of duty counsel and amicus services providing free legal advice to thousands of self-represented litigants in Edmonton and Calgary.
Justice Feth was named Queen’s Counsel in 2010 and, in 2019, he received the Distinguished Service Award for Service to the Legal Profession from the Law Society of Alberta and the Canadian Bar Association (Alberta Branch).
As a litigator, he advocated for Indigenous people at every court level in Alberta and before the Supreme Court of Canada. “The Canadian courts have profoundly advanced the rights and interests of Indigenous people, often giving a voice to communities who were otherwise not heard,” he says.
The Heart Lake First Nation presented him with an eagle feather for assisting in the resolution of a political conflict.
His life and work experiences have given him insight into the diversity of Canadians, including urban, rural, linguistic, Indigenous and multicultural communities, and he routinely advised public institutions about their obligations to the public, especially vulnerable stakeholders.
“Much of my legal and life experience has involved understanding social disadvantage and barriers to participation in the legal system,” says Justice Feth. “I have met and befriended people from all walks of life and understand that people think, communicate and value in different ways.”
The Edmonton jurist became a lawyer at a young age, convinced it was the right fit, and says he was never disappointed.
“I believe the legal profession plays a crucial role in a democratic society, protecting the rule of law, preserving social order, defending individual rights and freedoms and providing a measure of justice (sometimes imperfect) for all persons.”